Faith Leader Letter on General John Kelly Nomination as Secretary of Homeland Security
Dear Members of Congress,

As faith leaders from many different traditions, we write to respond to the nomination of General John Kelly for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by emphasizing the importance of policies that respect the dignity of all people and live up to our values of compassion, hospitality, and welcome. Our faith traditions teach us to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger. We pray that, if confirmed, General Kelly will ensure that the dignity of individuals and unity of families are respected, regardless of their country of origin or religion.

We are concerned that General Kelly’s background could lead to a more militarized approach to immigration policies, rather than a response that prioritizes access to protection for asylum seekers and respects the human rights and dignity of all, including immigrants. As head of the Southern Command (SouthCOM), General Kelly oversaw U.S. military operations in Central and South America and was charged with applying the military and military strategy to defend the United States from security threats. We are troubled that General Kelly has called immigrants from Latin America an “existential threat” to the United States, and has supported circumventing restrictions to train foreign forces that have committed grave human rights violations. We are also concerned that, as DHS Secretary, General Kelly would oversee immigration detention centers, since he has stated that Guantanamo, where prisoners have been held for more than a decade without charge and have suffered torture, is a model of detention for the world.

DHS is an enormous, multi-faceted agency that, in addition to enforcing immigration laws, is charged with protecting and processing asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, refugees, and other vulnerable populations arriving to the United States. It is essential that the DHS Secretary carry out this charge with compassion. We encourage you to raise these concerns during General Kelly’s confirmation hearing and ask if he will safeguard access to protection for all people and reject policies that target populations based on national origin or religious identity.

As people of faith, we are concerned that General Kelly may further militarize the U.S. immigration and asylum systems and fail to provide a humane and compassionate response to the escalating humanitarian crisis occurring in the Northern Triangle of Central America. Children and families are fleeing violence, forced gang conscription, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The United States has a legal and moral responsibility to not return these individuals back to situations where they would face harm. We pray that General Kelly may find compassion to respond to this humanitarian crisis with fair and humane solutions and ask you to raise these issues with him.

Also, we are strongly opposed to any nomination of Kris Kobach, a member of President-elect Trump’s transition team, to any political appointment. Mr. Kobach has engaged in a campaign of hate and has been a dangerous and divisive voice to galvanize white supremacists around the country. He has authored discriminatory, racially motivated, unconstitutional state legislation that were designed to make life miserable for immigrants and have been largely rejected by federal courts. Mr. Kobach was also counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group founded on white supremacist ideals and whose leaders continually release racist statements. As communities of faith, we stand against Mr. Kobach’s involvement in our country’s policies, as well as all proposals of discrimination or exclusion. We must carry on our nation’s proud history of hospitality and moral leadership.

Immigrants and newcomers enrich our communities and make our country stronger. We ask you to affirm our collective, moral imperative to love our neighbor, welcome the sojourner, and care for the most vulnerable among us. Please stand with us and ensure that our next Secretary of Homeland Security enshrines these values.

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